How to Get a Mentor in 6 Easy Steps

150 150 Ellen Ensher
  • 1
  1. Know Thyself. figure out your goals, wishes, and ideas about what you want.  I would like you invite you to take some pressure off. You do not have to know your exact interest in order to connect with a mentor. This will continue to change and evolve. I see this all the time with college students who change their major more times than a fashion model changes clothes!  As for adults in the workforce, the average person changes job 16-29 times and careers 7-10 times. You don’t have to have your exact career mapped out- just know the next step to explore.  Also, I will mention one resource – the Strong Interest inventory based on John Holland’s work with a typology of vocational codes and occupations can be very helpful in helping people match specific interests with certain occupations.
  2. Figure out the go-to people in particular area. Here is where you get to do some research.  Look around – who are the thought leaders in a particular area? Immerse yourself in the writing, the YouTube clips, and the presentations of an individual. If local, see who speaks up, who talks at professional meetings, who is the one person that everyone says you should talk to for career advice… keep immersing yourself- a pattern will emerge and a few names will appear as the go to people.
  3. Think outside the box and consider different types of mentoring programs. What knowledge, skills, or abilities do you want to acquire?  Probably different mentors can help in different ways. For example, perhaps a step-ahead mentor who is several years older than you can help with issues of adjusting to being new to a work environment.   Or maybe you want to connect with someone prominent like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and gain her support as a mentor because you are considering a career in the Foreign Service?  Yes, Hillary is a little busy and probably tough to reach!  But Hillary and other successful people have people that work for them and it is their job to write back when you contact them.  Work on developing a relationship with gatekeepers, and second or third tier connections. A great way to do this is to link in with past professors, alumni groups and take a look at their networks.  Also, think about e-mentors, reverse mentors, peer mentors, as well as traditional mentors.  Also, source out formal mentoring programs.  For more ideas about different types of mentors see my book that I co-wrote with Susan Murphy, Power Mentoring.
  4. Make a warm call instead of a cold call. In other words, find someone who knows somebody who can provide an introduction – LinkedIn is  a great tool for this.
  5. Give Back. Make your complementary skills explicit.  For example, a few years ago, I helped a recent MBA grad land his first job in entertainment and marketing.  In return, one day he stopped by my office and said I am not leaving until you get on Facebook and Linked In- I mentored him about getting ahead in his career and in return he became my social media guru. An exchange of technology savvy for technical knowledge is a great example of  reciprocal mentoring.
  6. Follow up, express appreciation and pay it forward.  Keep expanding your network. Since it is Girl Scout cookie time (Samoa’s rock!). I am reminded of the Girl  Scout jingle, “Make new friends, keep the old, new is silver, old is gold.” In other words, we are never too young or old to start creating a network of helping relationships and it is never to soon to pay it forward. .. at my son’s school the eighth  graders are paired as mentors to the kindergartners so for him, he learned how to be a mentor when he was five years old. People who live well never keep learning so we always need to be involved as both mentors and protégés to others.